MaryLu Tyndall gave us some in-depth reflections on her new book, The Raven Saint.
Q: Remind us of the parable that inspired the Charles Towne Belles series and who your heroine, Grace Westcott symbolizes.
The series is based on the parable of the seed and the sower found in Matthew 13. Familiar to most Christians, it is the story Jesus tells of a farmer who sows seed (the gospel message) for a harvest. Some of the seed falls on the road and is immediately taken away by birds that represent Satan. Some of it falls among the rocks where it does not take root and is scorched by the sun, which represents tribulations and problems. Some falls among the thorns, which represent the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, and these thorns rise to choke out the new seedling so they cannot become fruitful. Lastly some seed falls on good soil where they grow and produce much fruit.
Grace Westcott represents this last seed. She loves God. She longs to serve Him. She has devoted her entire life to doing His will. But lest you think that’s the end of the story, rest assured that this saint has some deeper issues that God needs to deal with before she can truly bear fruit!
Q: In today’s Christian culture, there is prevalent belief, like that of heroine Grace Westcott, that if you’re a good Christian, love God with all your heart, and serve Him faithfully, God will bless you and nothing terrible will happen to you and your family. What is your opinion of this doctrine?
It is a false doctrine that if left unchecked will cause many to fall away from the Lord. The Bible is full of verses that describe the Christian life as one filled with struggles and trials and persecutions. All you need to do is examine the lives of the apostles or any of the great men and women of God to see that much pain was required of them. But what about those verses in the Bible that speak of God’s blessing, His protection, His goodness? I believe in those too. The problem is, people only select certain verses out of God’s Word that appeal to them. You have to take all of Scripture together to get the real picture. God does love us! He does want to bless us! But He has bigger things in mind than your personal happiness. He’s fighting a battle for the lost souls of men and women, and when He calls you into His Kingdom, He’s calling you to join the battle and help Him. Like soldiers, we must all go through boot camp. We must be trained. Our hearts must change to be more like Jesus, and that isn’t always a pleasant experience. Afterward, He wants to use us to fight the enemy and to save souls. It’s not always going to be easy. That’s why they call it a battle! But I can guarantee you that if you submit to the Lord and love Him with all your heart, He has great and amazing things for you to do. Not easy things. But things that you would never have dreamed you could do.
Q: Grace Westcott seems to have one major flaw. What advice do you have for identifying flaws in ourselves and not being so quick to point out flaws in others?
It’s so easy to not see our own inadequacies, isn’t it? How quick we all are to find fault with others, when most of the time, we have that same flaw ourselves! The best way I have found to identify my own failings and weaknesses is by spending time in the Word of God. God tells us that the Bible is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit. . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In other words, the Bible has the power to show us what is deep within us, if we approach it with a humble and submissive heart. Secondly, at least once a week, I ask God to reveal to me any hidden sins or weaknesses that I’m unaware of. And believe me, He does!
Q: What would you say to someone who, like the hero Rafe in the story, have turned away from God because of the example of certain people?
I cannot tell you how many people I run into who have turned away from Christianity because of Christians! It seems to be an epidemic in this country. That’s why we can’t look to any one person or any group of people to find the truth. We humans are terribly flawed. There’s not a day that goes by that we all don’t commit some sin. Hopefully, by the grace of God, we are all growing more like Him, but it is a process—a long, difficult process. Some Christians never grow up from babies. Some get stuck along the way, while others who call themselves Christians really aren’t Christians at all. They are the wolves among the sheep and they are the worst examples of Jesus. Quit searching for God among people. Search for God in His Word and in your heart. That’s where you’re going to find Him if you truly wish to find Him.
Q: Often Christians want desperately to lead others to God, yet they feel they have no success in their evangelistic efforts, just like Grace. What do you think is important to keep in mind in a situation like this?
The Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians come to mind where he says that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” In other words, we each play a part in the winning of souls for Jesus. Some of us simply plant a seed, then someone else comes along later in that person’s life and waters that seed. We may never see the fruits of our labor. We may never know in this life the influence we’ve had over people for God’s glory. All we are required to do is follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and be the best example of Jesus on this earth that we can. Leave the rest up to God.
Q: What do you hope your readers learn from The Raven Saint, especially from both Rafe and Grace’s characters?
Grace is such a perfect example of many Christians today. She loves the Lord and she’s busy about His work. The problem is, she’s so busy doing what she thinks He wants her to do, that she’s lost sight of who He really is. In other words, she has become entangled in good works and has forsaken her first Love. Because she measures her own worthiness on her good works, she measures others on theirs, and when she finds them lacking, she judges them. My hope through Grace’s story is that people will stop and take a good long look at their own hearts and ask themselves if perhaps they have fallen into the same trap as Grace. Do they have a heart like Jesus had, that loves everyone and doesn’t judge those who come to Him with open hearts? Or do they avoid and even snub those whose sins are out in the open? Jesus was able to separate the sin from the sinner and see the root cause of it in a person’s life. We can do that too, by getting to know someone and loving them, regardless of their sin. In reality, Grace’s sin of a judgmental heart was far worse in God’s eyes than the sins of those she judged. Don’t believe me? Just read what Jesus had to say to the Pharisees of his day.
Rafe turned his back on God at an early age due to the bad example of his so-called Christian father. Rejected by the pious man as well as by a woman he loved, Rafe is filled with heartache and rage. I believe rejection is one of our culture’s biggest problems. Rejection by a parent or by a close friend or spouse wounds the heart like nothing else can. It causes insecurity and rage and sets a person on a very dangerous path. The last thing Rafe should have done is reject God based on the example of Christians. As I said above, you can’t base your faith on the actions of so called godly people. You must seek God on your own and seek Him with all your heart. By rejecting God, Rafe ran away from the only One who could truly heal his own rejection. Through Rafe’s story, I hope people who suffer from deep-seated rejection can see a bit of themselves in Rafe, and like him, go to the only One whose love can heal that painful wound.
M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall dreamed of seafaring adventures during her childhood days in Florida. Her love of history and passion for story drew her to create the popular Legacy of the King’s Pirates series. Writing for more than twenty years, she lives on California’s coast with her husband and six children, where her imagination still surges with the sea.
You can learn more about MaryLu and her writings at her website, www.mltyndall.com.